Atherosclerosis is a condition in which there is a build-up of plaque in the arteries. It is a process of the build-up of plaque and clogs the arteries that are called atherosclerosis. Arteries are blood vessels that transport blood with oxygen to the heart and other parts of the body. Atherosclerosis is also known as arteriosclerosis or hardening of arteries.
Atherosclerosis is the main cause of deaths globally. Atherosclerosis is a process that occurs in large arteries and is the major cause of heart disease and stroke. In the westernized societies atherosclerosis is the main underlying cause of about 50% of all deaths.
This build-up substance or the plaque is made up of mostly
- Smooth muscle cells
Most of the lipid in the plaque is cholesterol which comes from the low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL). The protein found in plaque is mostly collagen. As the plaque or build-up grows it starts protruding into the artery. Because of this the artery becomes constricted and the area for the blood to flow decreases. Because of the narrowing of the artery, the blood flow may be reduced and result in a critical condition. Sometimes it may lead to heart attack, stroke or even death.
Atherosclerosis process starts very early
Atherosclerosis may result in sudden dangerous outcomes such as stroke or heart attack. But atherosclerosis itself develops over a long period of time. It is a chronic degenerative illness. It may start in a person at a very young age and then lead to the sudden onset of very serious incidents. It has been seen by doctors and researchers that the foundation of atherosclerosis may start very early in childhood sometimes the process may start as early as in 10 to 12 years old children.
It may take decades for the blockage actually to cause a heart attack because of the formation of a blood clot which may along with the plaque cause blockage or for the blood supply to become insufficient.
Risk factors that may result in atherosclerosis
- Elevated levels of blood cholesterol, triglycerides, and lipoproteins
- High blood pressure
- Insulin resistance
- Diet with high-fat levels
- Overweight or obesity
- Lack of physical activity
- Unhealthy dietary habits
- Family history
- Inflammation (damage to artery walls which may lead to inflammation and then plaque)
- Reduced levels of high-density lipoprotein
- Elevated levels of homocysteine
- Elevated levels of low-density lipoprotein and very low-density lipoprotein
- Low antioxidant levels
Other risk factors
- High levels of C-reactive proteins
- Sleep apnoea
Atherosclerosis is a process that starts with
- Fatty streaks formation
- Then atheroma
- Atherosclerotic plaque formation
The plaque formed in arteries may burst and cause a blood clot. Atherosclerosis is mostly considered a heart-related problem. But atherosclerosis can affect arteries in the other parts of the body too.
Atherosclerosis is a condition that may be prevented and treated by adopting a healthy lifestyle.
- Stop smoking
- Follow healthy dietary habits
- Get adequate physical activity
- Achieve and maintain a healthy weight
From the evidence gathered It is now clear that atherosclerosis is not a degenerative condition that occurs normally with aging. It is actually a chronic inflammatory condition that can become an acute clinical emergency because of the plaque bursting and thrombosis.